2014 was one of the best years for music in a long time. Established musicians left and were replaced, the transgender community was represented and unsigned and small-label artists performed at the level of their major-label counterparts.
Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues
The punk legends have long stood as an integral part of the scene, but the band’s first effort since Laura Jane Grace’s coming out as transgender is a poignant, powerful album about what it is to be transgender. Not only is the songwriting top-notch, but Against Me! sounds fresher and more excited than they have since Reinventing Axl Rose.
Arch Enemy – War Eternal
When longtime frontwoman Angela Gossow announced that she would be leaving her position as Arch Enemy’s vocalist and that Alisa White-Gluz would be stepping into her shoes, the death metal community’s eyes were on the former The Agonist vocalist. White-Gluz stepped up to the plate and helped Arch Enemy create the best extreme metal album of the year. War Eternal is loaded with grooves and the ferociousness that Arch Enemy fans have come to expect with an exciting vocalist who stands in a league of her own.
Armory Infirmary – Live Again
Armory Infirmary’s Rest EP was released in January to what seemed a fairly unanimous reaction: excellent songwriting, subpar production. On Live Again, the Indian Valley, Pennsylvania four-piece’s second full length and first with a new lineup, those issues have disappeared and the songwriting has been taken up another notch. The metalcore album is emotional, honest and raw, but this time the songs can be heard the proper way.
Code Orange – I Am King
I Am King is one of the heaviest albums to be released in 2014. Straight from the start, Code Orange assails the listener with noise and mosh-worthy riffs that Pittsburgh hardcore has become known for.
Every Time I Die – From Parts Unkown
Expire – Pretty Low
Expire’s follow up to Pendulum Swings is a great hardcore album. Vocalist Josh Kelting is as aggressive as ever and on Pretty Low Expire makes themselves a contender for the best riff writers in hardcore.
The Heads Are Zeros – All The Men I Love Are Dead
The Heads Are Zeros is one of the craziest three-piece groups making music. Olivia Henry delivers the most frantic vocal performance of the year over a fusion of grindcore and technical wizardry. All The Men I Love Are Dead is one of the most confusing releases of the year, but it is also one of its most impressive.
Hotel Books – I’m Almost Happy Here, but I Never Feel at Home
Hotel Books could win an award for writing the saddest album of the year. I’m Almost Happy Here is a heart-wrenching collection of poetry with musical accompaniment that takes the listener on a roller coaster of emotions.
La Dispute – Rooms of the House
Rooms of the House is without a doubt La Dispute’s best album to date. The album feels like a well-composed symphony, rising and falling in perfect timing with Jordan Dreyer’s vocals that often feel like a riveting narration.
The Last Remark – Fight to Live
The Philadelphia trio’s debut album is an incredible first effort. Effortlessly blending old school elements of glam and thrash with elements of modern hardcore and metalcore, Fight to Live is ten songs of stellar technical work and airtight songwriting that makes the trio sound like a five-piece.
Levi the Poet – Correspondence (a fiction)
Levi the Poet’s newest release is not only a collection of spoken word, but a concept album. Levi the Poet wrote a story and told it over beautiful instrumentals. It certainly is not the norm for albums, but Levi the Poet’s ability to tell an engaging story is unmatched.
Miss May I – Rise of the Lion
Rise of the Lion is the album that will be remembered as the turning point for Miss May I. Breaking out from metalcore forgettability, Miss May I has written a metal album that is harsher, riffier and more in-your-face than previous releases. While it may be less accessible to older fans, Miss May I dug back to their roots and delivered a great album from them.
Mister Lies – Shadow
Nachtmystium – The World We Left Behind
Nachtmystium has always been one of black metal’s most surprising bands and The World We Left Behind only builds on that reputation. Spacey guitars and keys blend with traditional black metal instrumentals and raw, floating vocals to create one of Nachtmystium’s best efforts.
Slaves – Through Art We Are All Equals
Jonny Craig proved on Through Art We Are All Equals that he is far from the run of the mill Warped Tour vocalist that many thought he was. Through Art is Craig making amends with his past and those he hurt through his addiction and lies. The album even includes guest spots with old friends, including Vic Fuentes and Tyler Carter.
Suicide Silence – You Can’t Stop Me
When Eddie Hermida was named to be Mitch Lucker’s successor after Lucker’s unexpected 2012 death, the former All Shall Perish frontman faced scrutiny from the metal community. Hermida did not just inherit the Suicide Silence crown; he wears it like it was made for him. You Can’t Stop Me is an incredible album as well as a fitting farewell to Lucker.
Wrong Answer – Circle of Blood
The Philadelphia hardcore group released this collection of every song it previously released shortly before calling it quits in October of this year. While none of the material on Circle of Blood is brand new, it is Wrong Answer’s only full-length and it is packed with great sing-along and moshable moments.